A continuum of myofibers in adult rabbit extraocular muscle: Force, shortening velocity, and patterns of myosin heavy chain colocalization

Linda K. McLoon, Han Na Park, Jong Hee Kim, Fatima Pedrosa-Domellöf, LaDora V. Thompson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Extraocular muscle (EOM) myofibers do not fit the traditional fiber typing classifications normally used in noncranial skeletal muscle, in part, due to the complexity of their individual myofibers. With single skinned myofibers isolated from rectus muscles of normal adult rabbits, force and shortening velocity were determined for 220 fibers. Each fiber was examined for myosin heavy chain (MyHC) isoform composition by densitometric analysis of electrophoresis gels. Rectus muscle serial sections were examined for coexpression of eight MyHC isoforms. A continuum was seen in single myofiber shortening velocities as well as force generation, both in absolute force (g) and specific tension (kN/m2). Shortening velocity correlated with MyHCIIB, IIA, and I content, the more abundant MyHC isoforms expressed within individual myofibers. Importantly, single fibers with similar or identical shortening velocities expressed significantly different ratios of MyHC isoforms. The vast majority of myofibers in both the orbital and global layers expressed more than one MyHC isoform, with up to six isoforms in single fiber segments. MyHC expression varied significantly and unpredictably along the length of single myofibers. Thus EOM myofibers represent a continuum in their histological and physiological characteristics. This continuum would facilitate fine motor control of eye position, speed, and direction of movement in all positions of gaze and with all types of eye movements-from slow vergence movements to fast saccades. To fully understand how the brain controls eye position and movements, it is critical that this significant EOM myofiber heterogeneity be integrated into hypotheses of oculomotor control.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1178-1189
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of applied physiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2011


  • Extraocular muscles
  • Muscle force
  • Myosin heavy chain isoforms


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